‘Broad City’ Returns: A Hillary Clinton-Approved Celebration of Poop, Bongs, and BFFs
It’s the opening moments of Broad City and Ilana and Abbi—our spiritual doppelgangers, our flailing everywomen, our hot messes we wish we had the confidence to be, our fraaands to the aaaand—are pooping.
In a year-long time lapse, they’re pooping and making out, shaving their legs, taking pregnancy tests, curling their hair, making out with guys, and—of course—smoking bongs. How do you measure a year in a life? Through bathroom habits, apparently.
It reveals that Abbi and Ilana are us…sort of. If not exactly, they are too close to us for comfort, the versions we’d be if we hadn’t been coerced into getting our lives together. It’s why we can’t help but laugh at their antics and fails, and bask in their soul-mate BFF-ship.
It’s why, with the Season 3 premiere of Broad City, we have turned Ilana and Abbi—and their real-world creators Ilana Glaser and Abbi Jacobsohn—into the most GIF’d, meme’d, and yaaas’d characters on TV.
They’re the next evolution in the romanticized portrayal of friends on TV: aspirational in terms of intimacy and joie de vivre, yet horrifying in actual day-to-day living.
It’s Sex and the City meets Girls meets Twitter meets, well, us.
Here are best friends embedded in the Big Apple, gallivanting through a city that appears more fun than it actually is and relating to each other on an intimate, even spiritual level about men, sex, insecurities, and personal dreams.
Manolos are swapped out for Chuck Taylors. Cosmos are replaced by shot and beer specials and, more often, some good weed. And Carrie Bradshaw’s infamous puns? They’re replaced by meme-ready catchphrases. It’s a peak moment in the transformation of sitcom to gifcom.
Broad City is back and it’s just as good as it’s ever been, now more confident in its identity. The escalating silliness that defined previous seasons continues to build, but stops short of deranged thanks to a simultaneous acknowledgement of the darker, sometimes sad truths that accompany the characters’ lifestyles.
In other words, the only appropriate response to Wednesday night’s premiere is “Yaaas queen.”
It’s the self-awareness of such catchphrases and GIF-able behavior that is both Broad City’s greatest asset and its handicap.
Here we have one of the most unusually blunt examinations of the lives of wayward millennials—one that doesn’t judge, but celebrates that notorious mix of entitlement, curiosity, and individuality—but which puts a softening Instagram filter on the harshest truths about coming of age that the show seeks to share with the world.
Not that bleak honesty should be Broad City’s responsibility. What we have now at face value is entertaining enough on its own.
Abbi and Ilana, as we see in Wednesday’s Season 3 premiere, live precariously in a world strictly ruled by Murphy’s Law. Everything bad that could happen does, to the endearing embarrassment of our heroines, who react with a careful balance of DGAF (that’s Don’t Give a F…) attitude, mortification, and resignation: the system built around them just isn’t strong enough to support their special brand of crazy.
Excuse me, their special brand of cray.
What has always made Broad City special is its fearlessness in spotlighting both the ugliness and the adorableness of its two lead characters, two people who are as cripplingly selfish as they are generous with each other. It’s a combination mirrored in so many real-life millennials that has proved impossible to fully understand or capture properly, as evidenced by the incessant, breathless thinkpieces attempting to grasp the spirit of—or if not, condemn—this generation.
Really, perhaps all these writers would have to do is head to the neighborhood bottomless brunch spot, where twentysomethings are sprawled and squawking their insufferable musings to increasing amplification as the mimosas get refilled. It’s a sociological zoo, and there’s honestly nothing more entertaining to gawk it. Which is why Broad City is so entertaining.
As the episode starts, Abbi and Ilana nearly miss their brunch table. First, because the hostess cuttingly keeps calling Abbi “Abbo.” Second, because Ilana is late; she read an article about Saudi women who need to ask permission from men to leave their houses and was so worked up she had to masturbate to ease the tension.
Not that it was going to stop her from obsessing about the article over brunch.
Of course, their outrage over international social injustice doesn’t rival the blasphemy of bottomless mimosas no longer being advertised on the menu, nor Abbi’s jealousy over her old art school roommate—no, not Smelly Pussy Donna; the other one—who has a piece showing in a big art show.
It’s a testament to our fearless spiritual leaders, however, that such negativity will never get them down. “To my fraaand. To the annnd,” they cheer, both to the love they have for each other and to the commercial windfall awaiting them when that quote becomes a meme emblazoned on T-shirts and tote bags that basic bitches will use for trips to Trader Joe’s and to carry their yoga clothes for at least the next six months.
Of course, nothing would be as popular as Broad City if the writing weren’t so smart.
Sketch-comedy hijinx ensue at a predictable pace during an episode of Broad City, but wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if they weren’t linked together with sharp dialogue, plausible plotting, and an emotional resonance buoyed by the performances of Jacobsohn and Glaser—the greatest rom-com pairing of our time.
There’s a running joke born from Ilana losing the key to her bike chain in a street grate, and thus being forced to wear a chain around her waist for the entire episode. When her boyfriend/not-really boyfriend offers to help her, she casually retorts, “As a woman I feel the need to cast this chain off myself.”
The gag threatened to be high-concept and pretentious, until Ilana shrugs off such notions in the best, most comically rewarding way. Extra payoffs come when the chains catch on the back of a truck she leans agains, carting her off for a terrifying, hilarious ride down the block.
Another throughline comes when Abbi’s shirt gets dirty while leaning over a grate to help Ilana retrieve her keys—a harrowing turn of events since she wants to put her best foot forward when attending not-Smelly-Pussy-Donna’s art show. She purchases a new shirt at a pop up shop where people are brawling over deals.
They forgot to take the security tag off the shirt she buys, which continues to humiliate her until the whole situation, well, explodes in inopportune fashion at the art show.
There are scrotum sculptures that get knocked over. Port-a-Potties that trap occupants while they’re being airlifted. There are a series of life-crushing embarrassments that are supersized versions of the various mini-mortifications we all endure on a daily basis, thus making this show, despite its loudness, quietly one of the most relatable on television.
Sure, Ilana becomes a parody of herself at times, with her incessant yaaas-ing and spastic over-confident body tics. And is it possible to be too sex-positive, too high, and too delusioned? Broad City firmly lands on the side of “no.” But it’s these things, the unmistakable Broad City-ness of season 3, that makes these experiences that, frankly, can lean toward “a little too real” just outrageous enough to not shake us to the core, but make us laugh instead.
And things do get a little too real.
Romantic foibles? Check. Constant rejection? Check. Public embarrassment? Check a thousand times. It’s when the show digs deep into its New York City setting that things resonate on another level. Being shamed by a breast-feeding proprietor of a Brooklyn co-op played by Melissa Leo because you’re delinquent on your service shifts? Too close to home, Broad City.
Oscar-winner Melissa Leo is just one famous face that stops by in season 3 of TV’s coolest comedy. Hillary Clinton is but another, perhaps proving the worth and also maybe the commoditization of this series that began as a celebration of female friendship but has come to define millennial pride, ambition, female friendship, and a very specific kind of feminism.
She’s Hillary Clinton, and she endorses this message, this series that opens with its lead characters pooping and taking a bong hit. Is it really possible to draw a line from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana? Actually, yes. Excuse me: yaaas. Yaaas queen.